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PHAC advice behind feds’ decision to keep requiring negative tests to enter Canada: Blair

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will continue to require travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon entry into the country so long as the Public Health Agency of Canada advocates for it.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Blair said the federal government is at the same time looking at how effective double vaccination is at mitigating spread.

“[Double vaccination] is also demonstrating for us, a very significant reduction in the risk that’s presented at our borders. We’ve seen throughout the pandemic that advice has evolved as new evidence and new data is available. We’ll continue to follow the advice in the Public Health Agency Canada,” he said.

His comments come after news Friday that the U.S. will reopen its land borders to non-essential fully vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8, but will not require proof of a negative PCR molecular test to enter.

U.S. air travel rules do stipulate that travellers must show a negative test taken no more than three days before departure.

Blair said keeping the policy in place is not a signal that the government is trying to discourage travel.

“We just want to make sure that they can do it safely,” he said. “One of the things that we have done for Canadians who wish to go to United States, to engage in a shopping trip, a day trip for example, they’re going to be able to do so, they’re going to be able to get their PCR test in Canada, and it’ll remain valid for up to 72 hours.”

According to government data, of the 397,497 tests administered at the land border between February and July, 0.2 per cent have returned positive.

Speaking in Washington on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said it’s important to continue to follow the science as Canada remains engulfed in a fourth wave.

“I really believe that when it comes to finishing the fight against COVID, the Canadian approach – which has been to follow science, to follow the recommendations of public health authorities, and to err on the side of caution – has served us really, really well,” she said.

She also reinforced that Canadians should only travel for necessity and holding back on “doing the things that you just want to do.”

A day later, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam cautioned against lifting testing requirements too soon.

“We have to have ongoing evaluation and discussion there is no doubt. But I would just like to remind everyone that right now we’re still at the top of that fourth wave. We’re in a situation in Canada where our health systems are still very fragile. We need to take a precautionary approach in the next little while,” she said.

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